This week is another small slate of titles, but there’s one big title that I was so excited about, it didn’t even bother me how few titles dropped. Which title, you ask? Well here’s a hint: you will believe a man can fly. Check it out below!
Knock at the Cabin – M. Night Shyamalan’s last few movies have been a little bit hit or miss with audiences, but even though he’s made a few duds in his career, I still tend to like more of his films than I dislike. I found the trailer for his latest effort, Knock at the Cabin, to be incredibly effective so I was excited to watch this one. And honestly, I really enjoyed it. The film involves a family at a cabin getaway for a weekend, fathers Eric and Andrew, and their daughter Wen. In short order, four strangers show up at their door and present them with an ultimatum: they must choose one of the three of them to die or the world will end. It’s a great set up for a film (based on a book called Cabin at the End of the World, which would have been a better title for the film, frankly), and Shyamalan delivers, largely through the strength of his cast. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge are outstanding as the fathers in peril, and Dave Bautista really steals the show as the gentle giant who is seemingly a good person caught in terrible circumstances. The film does a great job of building tension throughout, and Shyamalan approaches this film in a way that is relatively straightforward, letting the story and the performances do all the work, which is very effective. My only real complaint with the film isn’t even about the film itself, it’s with the trailer. For my money, I feel like the trailer gives away more of the plot turns than it needed to. Knock at the Cabin comes to home video this week on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the film looks and sounds quite good in the premium format. It’s not a particularly visuals-heavy film, but the 4K colors give all of the various forest scenery as well as the people in the film natural, lifelike hues, while image clarity is impeccably sharp. The surround soundtrack has to deal with a lot of very quiet scenes, but it does also showcase some excellent directionality with some of the more intense scenes, especially the ones where some of the action happens just off camera. I really enjoyed Knock at the Cabin (despite that mediocre title) and I think you will too.
Superman 5-Film Collection: 1978-1987 (4K Ultra HD) – This is the one I’ve been waiting for. I’m a huge Superman fan; period, full stop. I love the movies, the TV shows, and I’ve been reading and loving the comic books since I was a kid. He’s one of my two favorite comic book characters of all time (alongside Spider-Man), and while his film history is a bit all over the place, the classic Christopher Reeve movies (at least the first two) still hold up as iconic comic book movies that helped to create and shape the genre. 1978’s Superman: The Movie is the definitive origin story of the most famous superhero ever created, and Christopher Reeve was absolutely perfect casting as both Clark Kent and the Man of Steel. While it diverges from the comic books in some ways, it also defined comic book continuity for decades after; much of the past 40 years of depiction of Krypton comes directly from the movie. Superman II somehow ups the ante with the introduction of General Zod, Ursa, and Non, and most fans hold up Superman II as one of the rare sequels of the era that is better than the original film, despite some Hollywood-isms that don’t make a lot of sense (Superman causes amnesia with a kiss?) Superman III and IV are, unfortunately, lesser efforts. Superman III shoehorned in the then scorching-hot comedian Richard Pryor and he got way more screen time than necessary, although the film does have some good scenes, especially the Smallville stuff and the Clark versus Superman scene. Superman IV gets a really bad rap, but I personally think the film isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. The producers slashed the budget for the film and it shows, but Christopher Reeve’s storyline about nuclear disarmament has its heart in the right place. The film is cheesy, sure, but again, it has some good moments. This five-disc collection also includes the Richard Donner cut of Superman II, which is one of the highlights of the set. Donner was fired after having completed much of Superman II and replaced by Richard Lester. This cut was completed a few years ago and it reintegrates much of the Donner footage that was dropped from the final film. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is great to be able to watch an alternate version of such a well-loved franchise entry. The 4K upgrades to the films mean that the Superman movies look and sound better on home video than ever before. They’ve never been the crispest-looking movies in the world (largely thanks to the original cinematography, especially on the first film), but you do get some nice details and especially bright, vibrant colors throughout the films. The surround soundtracks are really impressive, with lots of directionality in the satellite speakers and an impressive low end bass channel, all while keeping dialogue clean and clear and prominent in the mix. While each of the first three films includes a nice making-of documentary in the extra features (and the fourth film includes a Superman 50th Anniversary special), I feel like the extra features could have been boosted a bit for this box set, but that’s a minor complaint. Ultimately, this set is a beautiful collection and a must-have for Superman fans.
Unwelcome – I really enjoyed director Jon Wright’s debut film, 2012’s creature feature Grabbers. Unwelcome is a different kind of film, although there are some similar elements between the two films, which I see as a positive. In Unwelcome, Hannah John-Kamen and Douglas Booth play a couple who move to a remote farmhouse in Ireland after they are assaulted in their English flat. They have to deal with Irish folklore creatures – little goblins called redcaps that they are instructed to leave pieces of liver out for to keep them from attacking – and a family of workers they hire to renovate the farmhouse which just have “bad news” written all over them from the start. So the tension that Wright brings to the proceedings comes from multiple fronts, and it’s enough to leave the viewer without any usable fingernails. Hannah John-Kamen’s performance is absolutely astounding, and Colm Meaney (best known for playing Chief O’Brien on Star Treks: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) shines as the patriarch of the worker family. While the movie doesn’t really break any new ground, it’s an exercise in suspense and tension and I found it to be quite effective. Definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for something new to thrill to in the horror realm.
Unicorn Wars – Well, now. This Spanish-language animated movie from acclaimed writer director Alberto Vazquez is… well, it’s a little hard to explain. The film tells the tale of cuddly teddy bears and majestic unicorns… who are locked in an eons-long war that involves dismemberment, suicide, hallucinogenics, weapons, and mass death and destruction. Despite the name and the animation style, Unicorn Wars is NOT for children, to be perfectly clear. The film tells us the tale of the teddy bears (modeled very clearly after the Care Bears) and the unicorns (modeled after, well, unicorns) who are at war with each other, and they’ve been at war for so long that nobody even knows why. The teddy bears attack, they get slaughtered by unicorns, lather, rinse, repeat. That wouldn’t be enough to justify a feature film, but Vazquez works in themes about organized religion, the military industrial complex, war, and society at large, and he’s not worried about hiding said messages all that much. The film is riddled with blood and guts, in that way that people seem to like where filmmakers take traditionally children-themed characters or visuals and makes them as disturbingly adult as possible. Personally, I’m a bit tired of that aesthetic and I rarely find it particularly effective, so I wasn’t really won over by Unicorn Wars. It’s certainly an interesting exercise and the visuals are unique and memorable, but I didn’t find the viewing experience particularly enjoyable. I’m sure there are people who will think Unicorn Wars is amazing, however, so I hope it finds its audience on home video (the film is now available on Blu-ray via Shout Factory.)
What’s New On Home Video – May 9th, 2023 – Superman, Knock at the Cabin, & More!
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